Scientists release gene-editing drug that could end the misery of urinary tract infections (UTIs) which affect 1.6 million Britons… for good
- The gene-editing medication is applied directly into the bladder by a catheter
- Once inside the body, the drug attacks the bacteria’s DNA and killing it
- The drug uses Nobe Prize-winning genetic-engineering technology, CRISPR
- Patients with persistent infections risk becoming resistant to antibiotics
Scientists have begun using revolutionary gene-editing drugs to treat agonising and recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs).
The medication is put directly into the bladder via a catheter, where it attacks the DNA inside the bacteria that cause the problems, ultimately destroying them.
Experts believe this method could be superior to antibiotics, which bacteria can quickly become resistant to.
The drug is based on Nobel Prize-winning genetic-engineering technology known as CRISPR, which allows sections of faulty DNA inside cells to be manipulated.
Scientists have begun using revolutionary gene-editing drugs to treat agonising and recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs)
The medication is put directly into the bladder via a catheter, where it attacks the DNA inside the bacteria that cause the problems, ultimately destroying them
UTIs are among the most common infections in the UK, affecting more than a million people every year.
Symptoms include burning pain when passing urine and feeling the urge to use the toilet when the bladder is empty.
For most, a short course of antibiotics clears up the infection within days, but as many as 1.6 million people suffer from chronic UTIs – classed as three or more infections a year.
Experts believe this occurs when the bacteria stops responding to antibiotics. This means that, though the infection’s severity will be temporarily reduced, the bacteria is not destroyed.
Scientists at US developer Locus Biosciences, who produce CRISPR-based medicines, believe the problem can be fixed with the experimental new drug.
Previously, similar treatments have involved replacing faulty sections of DNA with healthy ones in the hope of triggering health benefits. For UTIs, scientists use a different method where the drug is delivered directly to the site of the bacterial infection via injection. Here, it can break down the bacteria’s DNA and destroy it.
The protein is carried inside a virus – called a bacteriophage – which seeks out bacteria. Patients are also given the drug through an intravenous injection, designed to find and kill any remnants of the bacteria which may be hiding in the patient’s blood.
In September, the first patient in the US received the drug. Eight more have now undergone the procedure. According to Paul Garofolo, chief executive of Locus Biosciences, the first results of the trial will be published next year.
Mr Garofolo added: ‘Recurrent UTIs are horrible. We hope our treatment can clear out the infection once and for all.’